Volunteers Offer to Escort Elderly Asian Americans Around California Community amid Racist Attacks

Hundreds of volunteers are lending their support to a Northern California organization that aims to protect elderly Asian Americans by escorting them through their neighborhoods during a time of heightened violence against the community.

Since the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States last year, there has a been major rise in the attacks on and discrimination against Asian Americans.

Like many, Jacob Azevedo, of Oakland, California, was shocked and disheartened by the situation, CNN reported.

Wanting to help, the 26-year-old used social media to offer to escort any Asian American who felt unsafe through Oakland's Chinatown neighborhood, according to the outlet.

His actions inspired hundreds of people in the community — of all racial backgrounds and ages — to reach out and follow his lead, CNN reported.

The positive response has since led Azevedo to establish Compassion in Oakland, a volunteer organization that promotes safety and community in their neighborhood, according to the group's Instagram.

"I wasn't intending to be some kind of vigilante," Azevedo explained to CNN. "I just wanted to offer people some kind of comfort."

Azevedo, who is of Hispanic descent, told the outlet he was compelled to take action after learning about two back-to-back attacks in his community.

One took place on Jan. 31, when a 91-year-old Asian American man was shoved to the ground in Oakland's Chinatown while walking outside the Asian Resource Center. The attack caught the attention of actors Daniel Dae Kim and Daniel Wu, who announced on social media that they would be offering a $25,000 reward for information leading to the suspect, which preceded the arrest of Yahya Muslim, 28, who was charged with assault, battery, and elder abuse.

It was not immediately clear if Muslim has entered a plea or retained an attorney.

The attack was just one of many that have occurred in the past year.

New York magazine, citing data from the New York Police Department, reported that there had been a 1,900 percent increase in anti-Asian hate crimes in the city in 2020. The outlet also cited an August 2020 United Nations report stating that from March to May 2020, an eight-week period, there were more than 1,800 racist incidents against Asian Americans in the United States.

Some have blamed, in part, former President Donald Trump — who frequently referred to COVID-19 as the "China virus" — for fueling the racism.

Speaking to CNN, Azevedo acknowledged Trump's previous remarks but noted that racism against Asian Americans has been going on for "a while," which is why he believes Compassion in Oakland is so important.

"This community just needs healing," Azevedo explained to the outlet. "There's a lot of racial tensions going on because of the previous president's rhetoric but in general our communities need healing. This is an issue that's been ongoing for a while."

In order to raise awareness about his organization, Azevedo announced on Instagram that they were distributing flyers to the elderly and business owners in the Oakland neighborhood.

On Sunday, Azevedo's group successfully marked their "first day with feet on the streets" and posted a photo of the volunteers outside Oakland Public Library.

"It felt good to be in the community and working together. Can't wait to do it again!" the caption read.

In addition to the volunteers helping keep the community safe, Azevedo told CNN he hopes that his organization can partner with local law enforcement.

"All of us need to come together if we hope to make this a safer community for the years to come," Azevedo explained.

Those interested in requesting a chaperone or volunteering with Compassion in Oakland can learn more here.

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